Environmental groups were celebrating, a climate champion in the Canadian Senate was optimistic, and one of the country’s highest-profile fossil senators appeared to be onboard after the country’s new climate accountability legislation, Bill C-12, cleared the House of Commons earlier this week and looked likely to receive Senate approval before Parliament shuts down for the summer.
The week had been shaping up as a last-minute moment for the bill, with speculation rampant that the minority Parliament will be dissolved for a federal election this fall. When a parliamentary session ends, all leftover legislation dies on the order paper unless it’s reintroduced in a subsequent session.
Climate groups had been pressing for C-12 to be strengthened and adopted. On Wednesday, they were cheering after the bill passed the House of Commons Tuesday night.
“Environmental groups advocated for C-12 to be prioritized and were pleased that four out of five parties voted in favour of the bill yesterday,” Climate Action Network-Canada and four other organizations said in a release. “Nonetheless, it was disappointing not to see support from all parties for the bill at third reading, as there was for climate accountability legislation in the United Kingdom.”
While the legislation “falls short of the gold standard,” they added in a letter to Senate leadership, “we cannot afford further delay in its progress through the Senate and passage into law. The focus now must be on ensuring that Bill C-12 is enacted before Parliament rises for summer, and that outstanding concerns be addressed and accountability measures strengthened through sound implementation of the Act once in force.”
By the time the Commons approved the bill, the Senate was waiting for it, Sen. Rosa Galvez (ISG-Quebec) said yesterday. “We’ve been ready for a while,” she told The Energy Mix. A Senate committee conducted a pre-study of C-12 while it was before the House, and “received all the amendments as they were adopted” in the House, “so it all happened live.”
While Galvez has been a fierce proponent of climate accountability legislation, C-12 also gained the support of fossil-affiliated Sen. Doug Black (CSG-Alberta), last seen throwing roadblocks in the way of the Trudeau government’s environmental impact assessment legislation in 2018.
“I do not believe it is the Senate’s intention to hold up this important bill even if improvements are needed,” Black told iPolitics Monday, adding that he has “little doubt that Bill C-12 will pass this week without amendment.”
After hearing some of her colleagues’ questions in committee, Galvez said they seemed most concerned about whether the new net-zero advisory body (NZAB) established under the legislation would include economic factors in its deliberations—a concern she said was raised by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in a series of 50 amendments it proposed to MPs and senators.
“I was very happy that the witnesses were very clear,” Galvez said. “This is a climate accountability bill. This is a bill to reduce greenhouse emissions. This is a bill to establish targets and to say how the government is going to be accountable for attaining those targets. This is not an economic bill.”
Still, the legislation now calls for the NZAB to weigh economic factors alongside Indigenous knowledge, social impacts, and climate implications of government policy—and Galvez said that’s just fine, since “the cost of climate inaction is much greater than the cost of action.” Extreme weather alone costs the country billions of dollars per year, and “we don’t have a piggy bank that we’re putting aside for every extreme weather event that is going to happen every year. We are not Norway. So this is having an impact on our annual global budget.”
Meanwhile, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer says the government still hasn’t explained how it will keep Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 to 45% by 2030. The government has announced new carbon pricing plans that will cut emissions by nearly 100 megatonnes, while “non-price” measures like building retrofits and tree planting will draw down another 110.
But that would still leave total emissions at 468 megatonnes in 2030, iPolitics writes, well above Trudeau’s new target of 402 to 438 Mt. per year.